Kielce to count on youth and experience
Despite the loss of the two main sponsors, the ambitions at Kielce are high for the upcoming season of the EHF Champions League Men. The plan is to make it to Cologne again, with a mixture of proven experience and exciting youth.
- Polish champions enter the top flight for the ninth year in a row
- champions in 2016 and played the EHF FINAL4 three more times, in 2013. 2015 and 2019
- since 2014 the team is led by iconic coach Talant Dujshebaev; his sons Alex and Daniel also play for Kielce
- squad for 2020/21 contains eight nationalities: Polish, Croatian, Montenegrin, Spanish, German, French, Belarusian, Icelandic
- the team is a mixture of international stars like Andreas Wolff, Alex Dujshebaev and Igor Karacic, alongside young talents such as Arkadiusz Moryto, Artsem Karalek, Tomasz Gebala and Branko Vujović
- first name sponsor VIVE Group ended cooperation with club after 18 years, followed by the loss of second sponsor PGE; Kielce were running crowd funding campaign to secure the 2020/21 budget, but also wish to present a new sponsor soon
Most important question: How will the mixture of experience and youth work?
The constant transition of the Kielce squad, which began after winning the title in 2016, is in full swing. A number of experienced players, such as Jurkiewicz, Aguinagalde and Jachlewski left, while highly-rated younger players such as Nicolas Tournat and Haukur Thrastarson have arrived.
Talant Dujshebaev is well-known for helping talent make the breakthrough as he did with Blaz Janc, his sons and Arkadiusz Moryto. Kielce will lack experience in some areas, but still have enough international quality in their squad to compete with the best.
Under the spotlight: Nicolas Tournat
After a season away from Europe’s top flight, it will be fascinating to see big Nicolas Tournat back in action, terrorising opposition defences on the line, but now in the yellow of Kielce as a successor to the legendary Julen Aguinagalde, who returned to his home club Irun.
There is no doubting his ability at this level, as shown by three seasons in the competition with Nantes and helping them reach the final in 2018. Still a bit rough around the edges, but coach Talant Dujshebaev seems to enjoy working with that. If Tournat can hit the ground running, he and Artsem Karalek could form one of the most fearsome line player duos in Europe.
How they rate themselves
Coach Talant Dujshebaev has short-term and mid-term goals in his mind: “Our goal for the group phase is to take one of the top two spots, then we would like to get promoted to the EHF FINAL4. At this tournament, anything can happen. I am very proud that I can be the coach of the team that takes part in this contest with its new playing system of 16 teams.”
Team captain and goalkeeper Andreas Wolff really hopes to be part of his first ever EHF FINAL4: “I have never been there and I just want to have this experience. Last season, we would have had a good chance, but everyone knows how it worked out. I think this year we will have another chance and I just want to be in this final tournament.”
Wolff has special expectations for the opening match in his home country: “The match at Flensburg will decide the route we will go down. If we start well, it will give us the wind in our wings and build our confidence up. In addition, for me as a former Kiel player, it will be special to meet Flensburg fans, I am pretty sure they have not forgotten me.”
Did you know?
Talant and Alex Dujshebaev were the first father-and-son duo to win the EHF Champions League. Talant won the trophy as a player with Santander in 1994 and four times as a as coach with Ciudad Real (2006, 2008, 2009) and Kielce (2016).
In 2017, Alex took his trophy in his last match Vardar, before joining Kielce. One year later, another son followed in his father’s footsteps as Melvyn Richardson won with Montpellier, emulating His father Jackson’s success in 2001 with Portland San Antonio.
What the numbers say
Founded in 1965, the club wanted to celebrate this 55th anniversary with a huge series of events, but COVID-19 hit the club’s celebrations hard.
In those 55 years, Kielce became Polish champions 17 times and cup winners 16 times. In total, the club have their 18th season in the EHF Champions League ahead. Their greatest success was winning the title in 2016 surviving the first penalty shoot-out in a final to beat Veszprém.
Arrivals and departures
Newcomers: Michał Olejniczak (UKS Miś Gorzów Wielkopolski/ SMS ZPRP Gdańsk), Sebastian Kaczor (Kusy Kraków/ SMS ZPRP Gdańsk), Szymon Sićko (NMC Górnik Zabrze), Haukur Thrastarson (UMF Selfoss), Sigvaldi Gudjonsson (Elverum Handball), Nicolas Tournat (HBC Nantes)
Left the club: Mateusz Jachlewski (TORUS Wybrzeże Gdańsk), Mariusz Jurkiewicz (retired), Blaz Janc (Barca), Julen Aginagalde (CD Bidasoa Irun), Romaric Guillo (Cesson Rennes), Doruk Pehlivan (on loan to GWD Minden)
EHF Champions League
Participations (including 2020/21 season): 18
Winners (1): 2015/16
Semi-final (3): 2012/13, 2014/15, 2018/19
Quarter-final (1): 2017/18
Last 16 (7): 1993/94, 1994/95, 2009/10, 2011/12, 2013/14, 2016/17, 2019/20
Last 32 (2): 1996/97, 1998/99
Group Matches (3): 1999/2000, 2003/04, 2010/11
EHF Cup: Quarter-finals 1997/98, 2005/06
Cup Winners’ Cup: Quarter-finals 1995/96
Polish league: 17 titles
Polish cup: 16 titles